Air Transport World

Sabena's peacemaker.(Statistical Data Included)

Paul Reutlinger has succeeded in bringing stability and growth to Belgium's flag carrier

Given the stormy tenure of former Sabena CEO Pierre Godfroid and his abrupt departure in January 1996, few people could have predicted that his successor, Paul Reutlinger, still would be in the left seat four years later, enjoying labor peace and even a little prosperity at an airline not known for either.

But Reutlinger, who was given the task of winning over the airline's notoriously militant unions when he was seconded to Sabena from SAirGroup (ATW, 4/96, p. 39), isn't taking his success for granted. "We haven't had one day of strikes for three-and-a-half years," he told ATW, "[but] we are vulnerable. It can happen any time." The genial Reutlinger, who won over the unions with a nonconfrontational, goals-oriented approach, believes that "social partnership is something you have to deal with every day ... if you do not believe in it, if it is not in your heart, you cannot live it."

Perhaps living on the edge is good for Sabena. After all, the airline earned Bef77l million ($20 million) at the group level in 1998, its first profit in 40 years, while shedding an image for poor service and a down-at-the-heels fleet. …

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